Toni Morrison, first African American female author to win Nobel Prize, is dead at 88

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Toni Morrison

The famed African American writer wrote “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon” among other acclaimed works.

By Minyvonne Burke and David K. Li, NBC News

Internationally acclaimed author Toni Morrison, whose prose spoke to the pain and resiliency of the African American experience, has died, her family and publisher announced on Tuesday.

She died in a New York City hospital Monday night at age 88.

“We are profoundly sad to report that Toni Morrison has died at the age of eighty-eight. She died last night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York,” publisher Penguin Random House said in a statement.

Her novels included “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula,” “Song of Solomon,” “Tar Baby,” “Jazz,” “Paradise,” “Gold Help the Child,” “Home,” “A Mercy” and “Love.”

Morrison was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African American woman to be so honored. Judges hailed her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

She was also bestowed America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2012.

“Morrison’s novels were celebrated and embraced by booksellers, critics, educators, readers, and librarians,” the publisher said. “Her work also ignited controversy, notably in school districts that tried to ban her books. Few American writers won more awards for their books and writing.

The author’s family in a statement called her “our adored mother and grandmother.”

“She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends,” said the statement released by Princeton University, where Morrison taught.

“The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing. Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life.”

Writer and TV producer Shonda Rhimes said Tuesday that Morrison was her inspiration.

“She made me understand `writer’ was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her,” Rhimes tweeted, minutes after Morrison’s passing was announced. “Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen.”

President Barack Obama, when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom said, “Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.”

“She believes that language ‘arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.’ The rest of us are lucky to be following along for the ride,” Obama said.

This article originally appeared in NBC News.

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